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AICPA Asks IRS to Fix Problems with Practitioner Priority Service Phone Line

By:
Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Aug 11, 2022

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In a letter to the IRS, the AICPA focused on the long wait times for calls to the agency’s Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) for tax professionals, asking the agency to make improvements. According to Accounting Today, taxpayers and tax professionals have both complained for a long time about the difficulty of reaching the IRS over the phone, and those complaints have mounted during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The letter, from Jan F. Lewis, chair of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee, to Dietra Grant, director of customer account services at the IRS, said, “Anecdotally, we are hearing from tax practitioners everyday regarding their significant PPS line challenges and the impact those challenges have on their interactions with IRS on behalf of taxpayers.”  

The AICPA mentioned that service levels for the PPS phone line had been in continuous decline for several years, in spite of recent efforts by the IRS to ease the burden that the backlog has caused for taxpayers and practitioners. The letter cited the National Taxpayer Advocate's annual report to Congress, which found that the percentage of calls answered on the PPS line declined from 78.3 percent in fiscal year 2019 to 28.0 percent in FY 2021, with the average wait time nearly doubling from 8.8 minutes to 16.1 minutes over that same period. For taxpayers, the level of service was even worse: The percentage of calls answered by IRS employees declined from 28.7 percent in FY 2019 to 11.4 percent in FY 2021, and the average speed of answer went from 16.2 minutes in FY 2019 to 22.8 minutes in FY 2021. Many taxpayers have complained they were unable to get through at all. 

The AICPA listed several recommendations with regard to the PPS in four areas: power of attorney (POA) issues, transcripts, accounts management (AM) versus automated collection (ACS), and general recommendations.

In its general recommendations, the AICPA urged the IRS to staff the PPS line again with highly trained, highly empowered personnel; discontinue asking practitioners for their social security numbers and birth date; enhance the new automatic return call system; and empower PPS customer service representatives from one line to handle all types of calls, “whether Business Master File (BMF), Individual Master File (IMF), or Exempt Organization.” 

"The recommendations we've provided to the IRS are important adjustments that could drastically improve service for countless practitioners and their clients. They would also serve to empower customer service representatives and enable them to perform their duties more efficiently," said AICPA vice president of tax policy and advocacy Edward Karl in a statement Wednesday, Accounting Today reported. "We strongly urge the IRS to consider implementing these recommendations as part of their plan to reduce the backlog and improve services, and believe that doing so will have a significant positive impact on services provided by the IRS."

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